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Reviews > Clothing > Accessories > The Warmfront Base Model > Test Report by Pamela Wyant

THE WARMFRONT (WOMEN'S MODEL) CHEST WARMER

Initial Report - February 3, 2008
Field Report - April 8, 2008
Long Term Report - June 8, 2008



Tester Information:
 
Name:  Pam Wyant
Age:  50
Gender:  Female
Height:  5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
Weight:  165 lb (77 kg)
E-mail address:  pamwyant(at)yahoo(dot)com
Location:  Western West Virginia, U.S.A.

Backpacking Background: 

Pursuing a long-time interest, I started backpacking four years ago, beginning with day-hiking and single overnights.  Currently I’m mostly a ‘weekend warrior’, hiking and backpacking mainly in the hills and valleys of West Virginia, but have started a project to section hike the Appalachian Trail (AT), accruing a little over 200 mi (300 km) in the last two years.  My usual shelter is a hammock, but occasionally I use a tent. In general my backpacking style is lightweight and minimalist and I try to cut as much pack weight as I can without sacrificing warmth, comfort, or safety.


Initial Report - February 3, 2008


Product Information:

Manufacturer:  Warmfront
Year of manufacture:  2008
Model:  Women's
 
Advertised weight:  N/A
  Measured weight:  2.05 oz (58 g)

Listed size:  20 x 13 in (51 x 33 cm)
Neck dimension:  13.5 in (34 cm)

Approx. overall measured size:
21. 5
x 13.5  in  (55 x 34 cm)
   neck length:  14.25 in (36 cm)

Color tested:  Black
Also available in Brown Leopard and Penguins

  Website: www.thewarmfront.com
MSRP:  $24.99
 

Shown over the shirt


Product Description:

The Warmfront is a wind resistant fleece chest warmer.  The women's model I am testing has a sculpted shape which measures approximately 13.5 in (34 cm) at the shoulder, bust, and hip areas, narrowing to approximately 11.5 in (29 cm) at the collarbone and waist area.  The overall length is approximately 21.5 in (55 cm) including the stand-up collar.  The Warmfront is made from "Malden Mills Wind Resistant, water-repellent, moisture transfer fleece" with the neck made of "Malden Mills Stretch Fleece with Vel-Stretch Tab" according to the manufacturer website.

The body of the Warmfront is a single layer of soft, dense fleece and the neck is a double layer of stretchier fleece with a light nap.  The "Vel-Stretch Tab" is on the left side of the neck and is about 1 x 3 in (2.5 x 7.5 cm) overall, of which about 2 in (5 cm) extends beyond the fleece neck.  It has an elastic feel and is the 'loop' part of the closure, which  fastens over the 1 x 2 in (2.5 x 5 cm) hook part of the closure on the right side of the neck.

The edges of the body and the rear of the neck seam are finished with a serger style overlock stitch of bright pink thread.  A small black tag with the word "Warmfront", measuring approximately 0.5 x 2 in (1.25 x 5 cm), is sewn to the bottom of the neck on the left front.  Near the bottom of the body on the left wide is a 1 x 1 in (2.5 x 2.5 cm) white tag listing the fabric content as "100% Polyester", "Made in USA", and size as "Women's M".  On the reverse side of this tag are laundering instructions; "Machine Wash Warm" "Do Not Bleach" "Tumble Dry Low".  The size on the label is of particular interest to me, since the website simply states the sizing as "One Size, Women's Specific Fit".

Trying it on:

Worn properlyThe Warmfront is very simple to put on - I simply wrap the neck piece around my neck and fasten the Vel-Stretch Tab to the hook side of the fastener at the back.  This properly positions the front of the warmer over my core, and all I need to do is smooth the fabric a bit by lifting it away from my body at the sides and tugging slightly, which results in a smooth layer.

I have discovered that the Warmfront does have a tendency to bunch up a bit once I pull a shirt over it, so I usually end up readjusting the chest and waist area again for maximum coverage and minimum wrinkling. 

The neck is very snug.  When I first fastened it, my neck immediately felt uncomfortably restricted.  I have grown somewhat used to this having put it on and off several times, and have found it helps a bit to pull the neck higher which eases the restricted feeling near what would be my 'Adams Apple'.  I can also somewhat overcome the constriction by not fully overlapping the Vel-Stretch Tab over the hook side, however this results in part of the hook side being exposed allowing it to grab onto the fabric at the neck of my shirt or to grab my long hair, so it's not an entirely comfortable solution.  For the record, I seldom wear high neck clothing, so this may be more of a problem for me than for others more used to higher tighter necks on clothing.

Preliminary Impressions:

From some quick preliminary hikes in cooler weather (around 3 mi / 5 km at around 40 F / 22 C) the Warmfront provides a cozy feeling of warmth, particularly in the area around my neck and upper chest.  It appears to be well made with no apparent flaws in the fabric and mostly even stitching although I did note a couple of stitches that have looser or longer loops than the other stitches. 

It is very light weight in feel and can be folded down to a compact bundle measuring approximately 7.5 x 6 x 1.5 in (19 x 15 x 4 cm) or rolled into a cylinder approximately the same size as a soft drink can.  It is very easy to remove if I get too warm - I simple unfasten the neck and pull and voila!  Presto, chango, one less layer!  It folds compactly enough to store in the cargo pants pocket of my REI Sahara pants, the pocket of my Montbell U.L. Down Inner Parka, or the hipbelt pocket of my GoLite Quest pack.

This concludes my Initial Report.

Field Report - April 8, 2008

Field Conditions:

Layered up with the WarmfrontDuring the last two months I have worn the Warmfront on 6 short day hikes (3 mi/5 km) in temperatures around 20 F to 50 F  (-7 to 10 C) in conditions varying from calm and sunny to breezy with light snow, and in some light misty rain.

I also used it on three longer day hikes.  The first was about 6.5 mi (10.5 km) in the Kanawha State Forest in central West Virginia, on a cloudy but dry day with temperatures in the 25 F (-4 C) range at elevations from around 1000 to 1400 ft (300 to 400 m).  Trails varied from smooth dirt to rugged rocky areas.  The photo to the right was taken on this trip.

The second was in Wine Cellar Park near Dunbar West Virginia, consisting of around 4 mi/6.5 km.  The day was sunny and around 50 F (10 C).  The third was about 6 mi (10 km) in western West Virginia, on old dirt county roads and jeep trails, with temperatures around 40 F (4 C) and no precipitation.

On all of these hikes, I wore it under an Ibex Woolies Zip-T, and most of the time I also wore a Montbell U.L. Down Inner Jacket as an outer layer. 

I also wore the Warmfront during a sleeping system test in early February, where I wore it with the Ibex Woolies Zip-T and the Montbell U.L. Down Inner Jacket under a Nunatak Ghost which was customized for warmer weather with an ounce (28 g) less down.  I felt the Warmfront was an important part of the sleeping system that allowed me to extend the range of my summer quilt down to about 20 F (-7 C), helping keep my core toasty warm.

I also took it on a recent hiking trip to the Damascus, Virginia area, but temperatures were mostly in the 50-60 F range, with drizzly rain much of the time I was hiking.  Since I needed to wear my rain jacket, I stayed amply warm with only an Ibex Woolies Zip-T while hiking, so while I carried the Warmfront in my pack as an extra layer in case I needed back-up 'emergency' clothing layers, I did not wear it.  It was nice to know that the warmth was there in my pack in case I needed it, and it took up only a little space.

Use and Findings So Far:

Keeping my face warmSo far while wearing a daypack, I've found the Warmfront comfortable with the Ibex Woolies Zip-T alone for temperatures above freezing to around 45 F (7 C).  In warmer temperatures, I have started hiking with the Warmfront, only to need to remove it within 10-15 minutes of hiking.  The Warmfront is very simple to remove by simply unfastening the hook and loop at the rear of the neck and pulling it out of my shirt.  Putting it back on while I am already wearing a shirt is a little trickier, but can be managed.

In temperatures much below freezing I've found it necessary most of the time (except on steep uphill sections) to also wear an additional insulating layer.  Also, if I was not wearing a daypack, I found an insulating layer was welcome in temperatures up to around 40 F (4 C).

I do find the outer edges of the Warmfront tend to move toward the center as I hike, so it ends up not covering quite as much of my front as I would like, but it does keep my neck, throat, and upper chest much warmer, and does a great job of blocking wind in these areas.

As I've worn the Warmfront, I've become more used to the high neck and it does not feel quite as restrictive and uncomfortable there as it did when I first got it.  I still find it more comfortable to pull the neck up higher rather than wearing it lower, and I've found wearing it this way, I can fully overlap the hook and loop so that it does not catch on my hair or the neck of my shirt.

One of my most interesting uses for the Warmfront was on a cold and windy day.  The Montbell U.L. Down Inner Parka was doing a good job blocking wind from my body, but my face was getting really chilly.  I had not packed a balaclava, so I decided to try wrapping the Warmfront around my face.  I folded it in half and tucked it around my face, and into the sides of the Montbell Inner Parka hood.  It worked!  My face felt comfortable and much warmer with the Warmfront surrounding it.  The photo to the left shows this experiment.

So far I have only needed to wash the Warmfront once, which simply involved tossing it into the washing machine on gentle cycle with the hook and loop at the neck fastened.  I was afraid the hook and loop might come loose, so I washed it separately, but found it stayed fastened, and next time I won't hesitate to wash it with other similarly dark colored fleece clothing.

I have not noticed any pilling or deterioration of the fabric or any loose stitches.  So far it looks pretty much like new.

Impressions So Far:

So far I'm impressed with the extra warmth and comfort the Warmfront provides for only a couple of ounces (slightly over 50 g).  It has done a great job of blocking wind in the upper chest and throat area.  I do wish that the sides stayed in place better during activity, and I wonder if having a larger women's size available might solve that problem, and allow for more comfort in the neck area.

I like that the Warmfront is easy to remove while hiking, and can be stuffed into a pocket or a small space in my pack for storage. Although I originally thought it would be a single use item, I am pleased to have found I can configure it to warm my face if breezy conditions make it more helpful to use it that way than to wear it in the intended manner.

Quality and workmanship seem to be good, and I feel it adds a lot of versatility to my clothing system for a very minimal weight.

This concludes my Field Report.

Long Term Report - June 8, 2008

Field Conditions:

Since my last report, I've worn the Warmfront on three short (3m/5km) late day hikes on old county roads in western West Virginia, with temperatures running in the 40-50 F (5-10 C) range.  One hike was in drizzly rain, with the other two having clear weather conditions.

I also used the Warmfront during a 3 mi/5 km overnight backpacking trip in mid-April in the North Bend State Park area in central West Virginia.  Since temperatures were in the 60 F (16 C) range during the day, I did not wear it hiking, but I did use it as part of my clothing system in the evening and morning when temperatures were around 50 F (10 C) to add a little warmth to the light weight wool top I wore.

I also wore it during a 3-day, 2-night backpacking trip in the Canaan Mountain area of the Monongahela National Forest in eastern West Virginia, covering around 27 mi (43.5 km).  Conditions ran the gamut on this trip.  The first day was cool, with temperatures in the 50 - 60 F (10-16 C) range, dropping to just above freezing (around 33 F/1 C) the first night.  Camp on this night was in a relatively damp area near several small streams, with the ground boggy in areas, which added to the chill.  The second day was warmer, with night temperatures only falling to around 52 F (11 C).  Camp this night was on a high ridge, in dry conditions.

Use and Findings:

Taking a break near Canaan MountainFor a measly 2.05 oz (58 g), I've found the Warmfront has a lot of versatility.  It is nearly perfect for pulling on when I feel just a bit of chill as evening temperatures drop, yet it is still too warm for a jacket.  It's also handy to add just the right touch of warmth when worn in conjunction with arm warmers to make sitting by a campfire on a cool evening comfortable.  I found this particularly appealing on my recent Canaan Mountain trip, when the group had a roaring campfire the first evening.  This is the type of situation where I really don't like to wear my down jacket for fear it will be damaged by a stray spark, and also so I don't end up with the down smelling like campfire smoke for the rest of my trip.  I don't like to wash my down gear any more often than I have to, so it's nice to have the Warmfront for  these occasions since it is much easier to wash to get rid of the campfire smell.

One thing I've come to really appreciate about the Warmfront is how easy it is to put on and take off.  I've found that I can just fasten the hook and loop neck and then easily shove the Warmfront down into my shirt in the front, reach under the hem, and tug it all in place. If I unfasten my hip belt, I can even do this with my pack on.  And nothing could be easier than removing it - I simply reach around to the back of my neck, unfasten the hook and loop, and pull.  Presto, chango.  Much easier than trying to remove the top layer, then the mid-layer, then put the top layer back on, like I would if I were wearing a more traditional full shirt as a mid-layer.  As a woman who regularly backpacks with mixed sex groups, it's also more modest.  I don't have to look around for a big tree to find a place to remove an inner layer.

The ease in adding or removing the Warmfront has been appreciated when sleeping too.  On the North Bend trip and the second night of the Canaan Mountain trip, I began by wearing the Warmfront when I retired to my hammock for the night.  Both nights I became too warm about mid-night, and it was very nice to be able to just unfasten and pull the Warmfront off while I was still laying down under my quilt.  If I had been wearing a more traditional shirt, I would have had to sit up and struggle to get it off over my head, which is not only less comfortable, but also means waking up to a greater extent.  I can remove the Warmfront while still half asleep and go right back to getting my zzzz's.  I can also add it relatively easily if I get cooler toward morning like I did during the North Bend trip, or just tuck it around my neck as a comfortable neck warmer like I did during the second night of the Canaan Mountain trip.  The soft fleece of the Warmfront feels very good against my skin, like a snuggly blanket. 

I thought the Warmfront was a great addition to my clothing system on both of my backpacking trips, but especially on the Canaan Mountain trip, where the temperatures ranged so widely.  It was comfortable with a light wool top when it was merely cool, and was great with my down jacket when it was colder.  It was definitely an important part of my sleep system on the first night when I ended up wearing everything I had brought with the exception of my mud-splattered convertible hiking pants and a light wind shirt.  Even at its minimal weight, the warmth added by the Warmfront was very noticeable.

Another thing I found I really like about the Warmfront is how easy it is to carry in my pack.  It takes only a tiny bit of space there.  I can also tuck it inside a cargo pocket of my pants, so I could start hiking with it on for warmth in the mornings and then remove it as I warmed up and simply tuck it into my pants pocket.  At break time it was easy to pull it back out and put it on as I cooled down.

I have found one small negative about the Warmfront, which is that it does have a tendency to bunch up toward the middle, which is evident in the photo above.  Honestly I am not that lumpy and bumpy without the Warmfront!  As in my Field Report, I wonder whether having a wider width size available would help the fabric stay in place better on the sides.

Summary:

The Warmfront chest warmer is a great addition to a clothing and sleep system for gram counters like me.  At a mere 2.05 oz (58 g) it is very versatile, layering well, and providing a surprising amount of warmth for the weight.  It packs small, stows easily away, and is easy to put on and take off.  It's a real winner in my experience, and will be in my pack on many future backpacking trips.

The only improvement I would suggest is making a larger women's size available.

This concludes the test series.

Thanks to Warmfront and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this chest warmer.


Read more reviews of Warmfront gear
Read more gear reviews by Pamela Wyant

Reviews > Clothing > Accessories > The Warmfront Base Model > Test Report by Pamela Wyant



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